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Articles on this Page
- 09/18/15--22:00: _Making Your Money L...
- 09/18/15--22:00: _Faith-Based Health ...
- 09/18/15--22:00: _10 Things You Didn'...
- 09/20/15--22:00: _Just How Vulnerable...
- 09/20/15--22:00: _3 Things to Ask You...
- 09/20/15--22:00: _10 Money-Saving Web...
- 09/20/15--22:00: _20 DIY Green Cleani...
- 09/21/15--01:37: _VW Rocked by U.S. E...
- 09/21/15--02:35: _Last Week's Biggest...
- 09/21/15--03:06: _Existing Home Sales...
- 09/21/15--06:08: _Get Started: Hispan...
- 09/21/15--08:19: _Apple Targets 2019 ...
- 09/21/15--10:22: _Market Wrap: Stocks...
- 09/21/15--22:00: _Why Consumers Like ...
- 09/21/15--22:00: _4 Credit Card Moves...
- 09/21/15--22:00: _20 Tips for Saving ...
- 09/21/15--22:00: _The Sad State of Es...
- 09/21/15--22:00: _7 Most Outrageously...
- 09/22/15--01:21: _VW Says 11 Million ...
- 09/22/15--03:35: _Sorry, Charlie: Sta...
- 09/18/15--22:00: Making Your Money Last a Lifetime
- 09/18/15--22:00: Faith-Based Health Care 101
- Faith-based cost sharing isn't insurance. This means that cost-sharing ministries aren't licensed or regulated by any insurance board or department.
- You must be a professed, practicing Christian and live according to Biblical principles in order to join the organization. This includes regularly attending church, not using tobacco or illegal drugs, and not abusing alcohol or legal drugs.
- 09/18/15--22:00: 10 Things You Didn't Know Amazon Can Do For You
- 09/20/15--22:00: Just How Vulnerable Your Financial Info Is May Surprise You
- 09/20/15--22:00: 3 Things to Ask Yourself Before Buying a Video Game Console
- 09/20/15--22:00: 10 Money-Saving Websites to Check Before Shopping
- 09/20/15--22:00: 20 DIY Green Cleaning Products
- 09/21/15--01:37: VW Rocked by U.S. Emissions Scandal as Stock Slides 17%
- 09/21/15--02:35: Last Week's Biggest Movers on Wall Street
- 09/21/15--03:06: Existing Home Sales Fall More Than Expected in August
- 09/21/15--06:08: Get Started: Hispanic Business Growth Outstrips Rest of U.S.
- 09/21/15--08:19: Apple Targets 2019 Shipping Date for Electric Car
- 09/21/15--10:22: Market Wrap: Stocks Rise, Led by Bank Shares; Pharma Drops
- Wholesale gasoline rose 4.7 cents to close at $1.403 a gallon.
- Heating oil rose 2.3 cents to close at $1.514 a gallon.
- Natural gas fell 4.7 cents to close at $2.605 per 1,000 cubic feet
- AutoZone (AZO)
- CarMax (KMX)
- Carnival (CCL)
- ConAgra Foods (CAG)
- Darden Restaurants (DRI)
- General Mills (GIS)
- 09/21/15--22:00: Why Consumers Like High Deductible Health Insurance Plans
- 09/21/15--22:00: 4 Credit Card Moves to Make Now Before the Fed Raises Rates
- The vast majority of American credit cards are variable-rate credit cards, meaning that their APRs fluctuate.
- Most variable credit card interest rates are tied to the prime rate. That means when the prime rate moves up or down, variable-rate credit card APRs will move up or down as well.
- What makes the prime rate move? The prime rate moves when the Federal Reserve adjusts its key interest rate called the federal funds rate, which is the rate that banks use to lend to each other.
- That means when the Fed raises or lowers the federal funds rate, the vast majority of American credit card APRs will rise or fall by the same amount.
- Say you have a $5,000 balance on a card with a 15 percent APR (the typical APR for a new credit card these days). If you make a monthly payment of $150, you'll end up paying $1,508.52 in interest and taking 44 months to pay the balance in full.
- Increase that APR to 15.25 percent APR -- as would happen with a small interest rate increase by the Fed -- and keep the other variables the same, you'll pay $1,544.74 in interest and pay it off in 44 months. That's an extra $36 over the life of the balance.
- However, bump that rate up to 16 percent as the result of a series of increases over a year or so, and suddenly you're up to $1,656.82 in interest and a 45-month payoff period. That's an extra $150 in interest from the original calculation.
- 09/21/15--22:00: 20 Tips for Saving on Grocery Staples
- 09/21/15--22:00: The Sad State of Estate Planning: Why So Few Have a Will
- 09/21/15--22:00: 7 Most Outrageously Expensive Whole Foods Products
- Chicken lemon kale sausage at $6.59 a pound;
- California ornamental kale at $5.99 a bunch; and
- Kaleamole at $7.99 a pound.
- 09/22/15--01:21: VW Says 11 Million Cars Hit by Scandal, Probes Multiply
- 09/22/15--03:35: Sorry, Charlie: StarKist Must Compensate Consumers
- a cash payment of $25, or
- $50 in product vouchers redeemable for StarKist tuna products.
- Chunk light tuna in water,
- Chunk light tuna in oil,
- Solid white tuna in water, or
- Solid white tuna in oil.
Filed under: Life Stage LessonsBy Jane Bennett Clark
These days, protecting your savings as you approach retirement -- with the goal of making it last as long as you do -- is like navigating between a rock and a hard place. Now in its seventh year, the bull market is one of the longest on record. That means by most standards that a bear market is overdue. Interest rates are almost certain to go up in the coming years, and bond prices fall when interest rates rise. "I see risk at both ends of the spectrum," says David Blanchett, head of retirement research at the investment consulting branch of Morningstar (MORN).
The more distant future looks dicey, too. Over the next 10 to 30 years, we think stocks will deliver average annual returns of 6 to 8 percent, rather than the annualized return of 10.1 percent they have produced since 1926. If you buy a 10-year Treasury bond today, you know that you'll earn roughly 2.2 percent a year over the next decade. Expect a little more if you invest in individual high-grade corporate bonds. (Funds will be hard-pressed to match the return of investors who buy individual bonds and hold to maturity.) Inflation is projected to stay low, at 2 percent, but cash will earn less than that, with money market mutual funds yielding maybe 1.5 percent over the next five to 10 years.
Longevity is a two-sided coin. There's the risk of outliving your portfolio and also the risk of underspending.
Whether you're a few years away from retirement or a few years into it, you still have the ability to adjust your plan. The key is to be flexible and willing to rethink some of the old rules.
Invest for the long haul. Traditional wisdom has it that you invest heavily in stocks while you're young and scale back that part of your portfolio to, say, 50 percent as you approach retirement, keeping the rest in bonds and other fixed-income investments. Near-retirees who are still shell-shocked by the bear market of October 2007 to March 2009 may cringe at the idea of putting even half their money in stocks. But short-term thinking poses a bigger risk, says Debra Morrison, a certified financial planner in Morristown, New Jersey. "What skews people's retirement asset allocation is that they're planning for the immediate future. Unless you have a terminal diagnosis, we're talking about another 20 to 30 years."
That means entering retirement with a healthy portion invested in stocks for growth and gradually reducing that side of your portfolio to lower your risk as you age. "A portfolio of 40 to 60 percent in equities is a good starting point," says Bruno. The Vanguard Target Retirement 2015 Fund, which manages its investments for people retiring this year, allocates 49 percent of its assets to stocks and 51 percent to bonds. Over the next seven years, the fund will gradually change its mix until it reaches 30 percent in stocks and 70 percent in bonds. That's the model for all Vanguard target-date funds.
Don Herlitz, 61, plans to retire in four years or so. An engineer at Cummins, in Columbus, Indiana, he has amassed a tidy sum in his 401(k) as well as in a cash-balance account (a hybrid with attributes of both a pension and a retirement savings account) the company set up when it closed its pension fund in 1997. Herlitz, who is saving for retirement on behalf of his wife, Paula, 58, as well, currently holds about 60 percent of his assets in stocks and has no immediate plans to change the mix. "I would hate to see the market crash right now because I don't have time to recover before I retire," he says. Still, if a downturn does happen, he and Paula are willing to ride it out.
Michael Kitces, a partner at the Pinnacle Advisory Group, in Columbia, Maryland, and Wade Pfau, professor of retirement at the American College, in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, suggest a different approach: gradually reducing your stock allocation to, say, 30 percent at the point of retirement and then raising it in retirement to 70 percent. Their rationale: Day one of retirement is when you're most vulnerable to the risk that a bear market will cripple the long-term growth of your portfolio. If you start with a low allocation to stocks and the market declines, you haven't taken a huge hit and can gradually add stocks back with the expectation that share prices will rise, says Pfau. If the market does just fine, "your wealth grows and you'll have more capacity to take risk later," he says.
Which strategy you choose depends on your circumstances and risk tolerance, says Bruno. If you have a large portfolio and plan to leave money to your heirs, "a more aggressive allocation later can make sense for those who are comfortable with the additional market risk," she says. If, however, heavy losses in the stock market could affect your ability to cover living expenses, you may not be able to stomach that volatility as an 85-year-old.
No matter what, aim for a portfolio that includes foreign stocks, including those from emerging markets, as well as large and small U.S. companies. Round it out with international bonds, real estate and some alternative investments, such as commodities and managed futures.
To take advantage of rising yields, consider building a ladder of bonds that start to mature five years from now, says Pfau. According to this strategy, you buy a five-year bond now, then invest a like amount in new bonds in each of the next four years. If rates rise as expected, you'll earn more interest with each new purchase. When a bond matures, you can use that money for retirement expenses. If you invest in bond funds, it's the manager's job to make the most of rising rates while minimizing the negative impact on bond prices. (See How to Invest After You Retire.)
Set your spending rate. Five years out isn't too soon to calculate how much you'll need to live comfortably in retirement and how much you can withdraw from your accounts without running out of money. On the savings side, one formula is to multiply your last year of preretirement expenses, minus Social Security and any pensions and annuities, by 25. When it's time to start withdrawals, the 4 percent rule is considered the standard. That is, you can safely take 4 percent of your savings in your first year of retirement and the same amount each year thereafter, adjusted for inflation.
One problem: Those formulas rely on historical market returns and don't reflect future returns, which are likely to be lower. To avoid lowering your living standard and to keep from running out of money, you'd have to save 33 times preretirement expenses (rather than 25) and drop your initial withdrawal rate to 3 percent or less, according to a 2013 study by Blanchett, Pfau and Michael Finke, a professor at Texas Tech University. For instance, if your annual gap between income and expenses is $24,000, you'd need $600,000 ($24,000 x 25) to cover the gap at the 4 percent withdrawal rate and $792,000 ($24,000 x 33) to cover it at the 3 percent rate.
For most people, upping the savings goal dramatically a few years away from retirement probably isn't realistic, says Srinivas Reddy, senior vice president and head of full-service investments for Prudential Retirement. You can, however, postpone retirement or work part-time after you leave your career job. Working longer "is a wonderful tool," he says, because it helps you save more and shortens the length of time you'll be withdrawing from savings. You can also postpone taking Social Security benefits. For every year you delay after age 62, benefits increase by about 8 percent until age 70. And anyone 50 or older can make catch-up contributions to retirement accounts. For 2015, you can add $6,000 to the $18,000 401(k) limit, and you can stash up to $6,500 in an IRA ($1,000 more than the basic contribution limit).
One certain way to avoid running out of money is to take a percentage -- say, 4 percent -- from your portfolio each year and forgo the inflation adjustment altogether. Another is to calculate your withdrawals according to the actuarial tables the IRS uses for required minimum distributions, which you have to take anyway from tax-deferred accounts starting at age 70½. Both strategies depend on your investment performance, and they trade flexibility for safety. Plus, the RMD strategy may be overly conservative because it uses a life-expectancy table much longer than that used by Social Security.
Here's another idea: Use the 4 percent rule as a starting point but adjust it up or down (or skip the inflation adjustment) depending on how your investments do in any given year. In a good year, you can give yourself a bonus, maybe upping the withdrawal to 5 percent. In a bad year, cut back. "Rather than taking a vacation in the south of France, maybe it's South Carolina," says Warren Ward, a certified financial planner in Columbus, Indiana.
Use the bucket system. This approach combines withdrawal and investing strategies. In one "bucket" you hold enough money in cash and short-term CDs to meet essential and discretionary expenses over three to five years, and you keep the rest in another bucket invested in stocks and bonds. As you spend down the first bucket, you replenish it by taking profits from the second. Some financial planners suggest creating three buckets, the first with cash and CDs, the second with short- and intermediate-term bonds, and the third with stock and bond funds.
The beauty of the bucket system is that you probably won't have to sell stocks in a market downturn to cover expenses. "Even in 2008, if investors had had five years to wait it out, their stock investments would have been in good shape by 2013," says Joe Heider, president of Cirrus Wealth Management, in Cleveland.
A fixed annuity, which provides guaranteed income for life, can be a part of the strategy. You use the income from the annuity, along with Social Security and any pension money, to supplement or replace the part of your portfolio in cash and bonds. At today's interest rates, however, expect a modest payout. A 66-year-old man who buys an immediate annuity for $100,000 would be guaranteed $579 a month; a 66-year-old woman would get $554. To eke out more income, consider laddering annuities, or buy a deferred-income annuity (see Invest in a Deferred-Income Annuity to Reduce RMDs).
Fixed annuities lock up a big chunk of the savings you might need later. John Sweeney, executive vice president for retirement and investing strategies at Fidelity, recommends devoting no more than 25 to 30 percent of your portfolio to annuities. "They're just another tool in the toolbox."
Lower your tax bill. When you take money from savings for retirement, you're generally advised to tap taxable accounts first, then tax-deferred retirement accounts, and finally your Roth IRA. Here's why: If you've held the investment in a taxable account for more than a year, you'll pay the long-term capital-gains rate -- no more than 15 percent for most people. Plus, tapping taxable accounts first allows your tax-deferred accounts and tax-free accounts to continue to grow.
Once you turn 70½, you're required to start taking distributions from IRAs and other tax-deferred retirement accounts. If you don't take a distribution of at least the required amount, you'll pay a penalty of half of the required amount you failed to withdraw.
Generally, you should save drawing down your Roth IRA for last. You can withdraw your Roth contributions tax-free and penalty-free anytime; the earnings are also tax-free as long as you're 59½ and have held the account for at least five years. Unlike traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs have no annual distribution requirement. So if you don't need the money, you can let it grow and leave it to your heirs, who can take distributions tax-free.
The exceptions. Now consider situations in which you might be better off departing from the standard advice. If you expect your RMDs to kick you into a higher tax bracket when you start taking them, it may make sense to take some distributions from your tax-deferred accounts before you reach 70½ (as long as they don't put you into a higher bracket). That income will be taxed at your lower rate, and you'll lower the amount of future RMDs, says Maria Bruno, of Vanguard.
Add up your other sources of income and withdraw just enough from the tax-deferred account to keep you in the 15 percent tax bracket. If you need more income to cover expenses, take withdrawals from your taxable accounts first, followed by withdrawals from the Roth.
HUM) and UnitedHealthcare (UNH) that provide coverage to help pay for medical expenses to policyholders who pay their monthly premiums on time. However, there is a different kind of health coverage that a growing number of Americans today are choosing that falls outside the realm of traditional insurance.
Faith-based health care cost-sharing ministries have been around for several decades, but they have become increasingly popular among many Christians since the Affordable Care Act was enacted. These cost-sharing ministries meet Obamacare's mandate that most Americans carry some type of health care coverage.
What Is the Difference?
There are several big differences between faith-based health care cost-sharing and traditional insurance. Two of the biggest are:
Faith-based health care cost-sharing ministries generally accept all applicants who apply if they meet the Christian faith and lifestyle criteria noted above. They generally don't allow members to share medical bills incurred due to health conditions that existed before they joined -- however, pre-existing conditions don't preclude anyone from joining.
Also, they generally don't allow members to share expenses for routine checkups, preventative care or dental and vision care. Members are encouraged to set aside some of the money they save due to the lower cost of participating in these organizations, compared to buying traditional insurance, (for most people) to pay for these expenses out of pocket.
A Closer Look
There are three major faith-based health care cost-sharing organizations currently operating in the U.S.: Christian Healthcare Ministries, Medi-Share and Samaritan Ministries. Here is a closer look at each:
Christian Healthcare Ministries
CHM was the first faith-based health care cost-sharing ministry to begin operations more than three decades ago. According to the ministry, CHM members have shared more than $1 billion in health care costs with each other since the organization was founded in 1982. There are currently about 140,000 people participating in CHM -- this is up nearly three-fold since early 2014, when there were about 55,000 CHM members.
There are three levels of membership: Gold, Silver and Bronze. They are distinguished primarily by their monthly contribution amounts: $150 a person for Gold, $85 a person for Silver and $45 a person for Bronze. Monthly contribution amounts are similar to premiums, but the term "premium" isn't used because this would denote insurance, which CHM isn't.
At the Gold level, CHM members can receive up to $125,000 in financial cost sharing per health incident for health care expenses that meet the ministry's guidelines after they have met their $500 personal responsibility. This is similar to an insurance deductible, but again, this term isn't used because it would denote insurance. Silver CHM members must meet a $1,000 personal responsibility and Bronze CHM members must meet a $5,000 personal responsibility.
In addition, CHM members can join the ministry's Brother's Keeper program that provides financial cost sharing for eligible medical bills above and beyond the $125,000 limit. Brother's Keeper cost sharing for Gold members is unlimited, while Brother's Keeper cost sharing for Silver and Bronze members is capped at $1 million. The cost of Brother's Keeper varies depending on the number of program participants and the amount of medical needs, but averages about $25 a quarter.
established in 1993 and administered by Christian Care Ministry, this is the second-oldest faith-based health care cost-sharing ministry in the U.S. Medi-Share members have shared and discounted more than $1 billion in medical bills since the organization was founded, according to its website. There are current about 100,000 people participating in this organization.
There are several different Medi-Share membership options that are based on household size and what it calls the annual household portion, or AHP. Similar to CHM's personal responsibility, this is the amount of health care costs members must pay themselves before their medical bills are eligible for sharing. There are seven different AHP options: $500, $1,250, $2,500, $3,750, $5,000, $7,500 and $10,000. Note that the $500 option is only available for members between the ages of 18 and 29.
Medi-Share also offers a program for seniors who are on Medicare: Senior Assist, which features a $1,250 AHP. In addition, Medi-Share offers a disability sharing program called Manna that can replace up to 80 percent of a disabled member's lost income for up to one year.
The price of Medi-Share memberships varies widely based on the member's age and the AHP level that is chosen. Once the AHP is met, all eligible medical bills can be shared with other members. Medi-Share members are encouraged to use PPO health care providers and hospitals that have agreed to discount their fees for members whenever possible.
This organization was founded one year after Medi-Share, in 1994. It is smaller than CHM and Medi-Share, with about 25,000 current members.
New members of Samaritan Ministries pay a one-time initiation fee of $200 a person. Membership levels are based on age and size of family: If at least one head of the household is over age 25, the monthly share amount for a single person is $180, for a two-person family is $360, for a family of three or more is $405, and for a widowed or divorced individual with children is $250. If at least one head of the household is age 25 or under, the monthly share amount for a single person is $140, for a two-person family is $280, for a family of three or more is $355, and for a widowed or divorced individual with children is $200.
There are no lifetime or annual caps on amounts of eligible medical bills that can be shared through Samaritan Ministries. Nor is there a limit on the number of medical needs that can be shared by an individual or household.
Right for You?
Faith-based health care cost-sharing ministries are not the right health care option for everyone. However, if you are looking for a less-expensive alternative to traditional health insurance for yourself and your family and meet the faith criteria, they might be worth a closer examination.
By Holly Hammersmith
Since it was founded back in 1994, Amazon.com (AMZN) has come to offer hundreds of thousands of items worldwide. Today the online marketplace remains one of the top shopping sites on the web with nearly $90 billion in annual sales. It also has evolved to offer unique features, from special discounts and shipping options to services like a gift registry.
Amazon loyalists, as well as other shoppers with a strong interest in finding the best bargains, take note. You may be missing out on ways to save more on Amazon.com. Take a look at some of the lesser-known services available through Amazon.com.
1. Monthly subscriptions. Looking to save on items you purchase on a regular basis? Amazon's monthly subscription service, known to savvy shoppers as "Subscribe & Save," offers a 15 percent discount to shoppers who order the same goods on a recurring basis; however, they must have at least five subscriptions. Subscribers can also receive free shipping.
Cost of Service: Free and you can cancel at any time
2. Two-Day Shipping. Amazon Prime offers many features, but probably the most popular is the free two-day shipping. Many of the 200 million-plus items on Amazon.com are eligible for this shipping service, which helps shoppers in need of a last-minute gift or who are unable to get to a store to shop in person.
Cost of Service: $99 a year
3. Compare Contractors. Find a licensed home repair or service professional instantly with Amazon Home Services. Shoppers can look for local service providers for electrical work, plumbing and more. Contractors compete with one another on pricing, allowing buyers to purchase services at competitive rates. Amazon Home Services is available in select cities.
Cost of Service: Free
4. Discover Launchpad. This is where "inventions take flight," Amazon declares on its Launchpad home page, which curates cutting-edge products from the latest startups. Items here include smart gear, gadgets and items for the home.
Cost of Service: Free
5. Make Way for Handmade. Move over Etsy.com (ETSY) and make way for Handmade at Amazon. This relatively new area of Amazon.com is your one-stop shop for homemade goods and wares. Items also include used and refurbished collectibles.
Cost of Service: Free
6. More for Mom. Moms are busy women. Amazon recognizes this and has introduced Amazon Mom, a service that provides extra savings for Amazon Prime members. Amazon Mom features free two-day shipping on millions of items, 20 percent off diaper subscriptions, a 15 percent baby registry completion discount, early access deals and more.
Cost of Service: Free with your annual $99 Amazon Prime membership
7. Gift Registry. Online shopping is so popular today that soon-to-be spouses are placing their gift registries online at Amazon.com. There are also baby gift registries for moms-to-be. Amazon offers a 10 percent completion discount on certain items in a registry. Additionally, details about the special event can be added to the top of the registry. An offshoot of Amazon's registry service is the "Wish List" tab on the website, which allows users to make lists for children's' birthdays, family gatherings, anniversaries and more.
Cost of Service: Free
8. Unlimited eBooks. You've no doubt heard of Kindle, which is Amazon's own electronic book-reading device. Amazon.com also offers hundreds of thousands of eBooks for sale every day. Books go on special occasionally and can be purchased for as little as 99 cents. For bookworms, try out Kindle Unlimited, a service that allows you to download unlimited eBooks, digital recordings and more.
Cost of Service: $9.99 a month
9. Past Purchases. Did you know that Amazon keeps a record of all of your purchases? Simply log into your account, click on "your account" and then "your orders." Here you will find orders dating back longer than you might remember. Each order lists your purchase, the cost of the item and the vendor. Looking to re-order something you purchased in the past? It couldn't be easier.
Cost of Service: Free
10. Gift cards. Amazon.com sells gift cards in a special section on its site. Shoppers can opt to have a gift card mailed to their address or to the home of the recipient with free one-day shipping. Alternately, shoppers can opt to print a gift card immediately at home or send an eGift card instantly.
Cost of Service: Free
Are you using Amazon.com to your benefit? If not, try out some of these services today and become an even savvier online shopper.
This story, 10 Things You Didn't Know Amazon Could Do for You, originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com.
By Gina Ragusa
NEW YORK -- "Sarah" (whose name was changed upon request) can't read one more article about how identity theft occurs because the victim didn't take the necessary precautions.
Three years ago, Sarah, a software engineer and programmer, was the victim of a nefarious attack that brought an already cautious and knowledgeable consumer (and industry professional) to her knees. "It started with tax returns where I later learned, only through the fact that my brother was also hacked, that someone accessed our information through our mortgage provider and stole every aspect of my personal and financial identity," she said.
During the mortgage crash, Sarah's information became vulnerable, as her investment property in South Florida ended up on the auction block. "Once this happens, a slew of leaches and dubious individuals have access to your information," she remarks. "Unfortunately, my brother and I were part of those thousands of people who were hacked and my life as been a nightmare ever since."
She's certainly not alone. There are 15 million identity theft victims each year in the U.S., and credit card fraud nationally is estimated to be $10 billion to $12 billion alone.
"My lesson was that it can happen to anyone no matter if they take the right steps and play by the rules.
"My lesson was that it can happen to anyone no matter if they take the right steps and play by the rules," she says. "I have very few tips for others, because my information was released by a third party. I'm so frustrated when I read the articles that essentially blame the victims. People think that if they are cautious their information isn't vulnerable, but that's just not true anymore. Any time you provide your Social Security information or pay for something online you put yourself at the mercy of the institutions' security measures."
Sarah says that three years later she is still waiting for the other shoe to drop as new fraud issues have arisen in drips and drabs. "Will it ever end? It's hard to tell because just when I think I'm covered something new crops up. My finances have been disrupted so many times, I finally put a security freeze with the three national consumer credit reporting agencies -- Transunion, Equifax and Experian."
Coming from an industry professional, Sarah's story is jarring, especially to the average layperson who uses a credit and debit cards on an ongoing basis and just follows the protective steps provided by their bank or news resource.
It's Not You, It's Them
IBC Bank's senior vice president of electronic services Kevin Mullins understands Sarah's tale of woe and agrees that scammers can always find the loop holes, regardless of your tenacity.
Mullins is in the process of upgrading thousands of customers' plastic to EMV-chipped cards, which are designed to reduce fraud and says that Sarah is in the right for the feeling of uneasiness.
"The concern is about counterfeiting," he says. "That's where thousands have been burned. That's where Target, the banks and Home Depot have been burned."
He explains that adding an EMV-chip to each credit card won't completely solve the problem but is one piece to a larger puzzle.
"I wish I could say there is a magic bullet that would wipe out fraud but it takes many different steps working toward the problem that will at least reduce the likelihood of having your financial data stolen," Mullins said.
EMV cards are designed reduce the physical opportunity of having your magnetic stripe data lifted and mass produced, which should alleviate a decent amount of fraud. "However for making online purchases, the risk still exists," Mullins contends. "Until we get into widespread tokenization for cards we aren't going to reduce the risk of using your card online."
One area that remains vulnerable is when the card isn't present. Sarah says one of the most recent reports of credit card compromise was with an EMV-chipped card that was used online. "When you're paying online, a chip on your card makes no difference at all," she says.
Diane Morais, Ally Bank's CEO and president, says that as customers transition to the EMV-chipped card, her bank's message is simple. "Regardless of whether [the customers] have an EMV debit card or not, we guarantee they won't be liable for any unauthorized transaction as long as they report the unauthorized transaction within 60 days from when their statement is made available," she said.
Morais adds that Ally offers an online and mobile security guarantee that ensures customers will not be liable for any unauthorized online or mobile banking transaction as long as they report it within 60 days from when their statement is made available.
Shred Your Documents, Protect Your Password ... Blah, Blah, Blah
Sarah says she went beyond what is typically suggested to protect her financial information, yet was still victimized. "I can't read one more story that lists the same protective measures," she says. "Shredding my information and protecting my passwords is second nature."
Aside from the usual recommendations, Mullins suggests asking about out-of-band authentication, which provides a protective layer if the customer's account is reached through a new or unrecognized computer or mobile device. "You will have to input and validate information that is straight off the core system to continue to conduct business," Mullins says. "Even if online banking is compromised, the hacker wouldn't be able to gain access to the user's account because out of band authentication would have to take place."
"When additional verification is needed, we activate extra security measures like asking a question that only the customer knows the answer to, or sending a security code to a device they've registered," Morais says. "This is often called two-step, two-factor or multi-factor authentication."
Morais also suggests customers ask their bank offers access to free anti-virus or anti-malware software.
Another protective measure consumers can take is to read the privacy statements included with any financial encounter.
"I understand that the legalese jargon can be complex to understand and process, but if you can look for the area regarding whether the organization shares your information with a third party provider, you can either re-consider the agreement or ask questions," says Alan Akahoshi, security leader for digital banking solution provider Digital Insight.
Most recently, The Today Show's "Hacking of America" series featured the pitfalls of using insecure free Wi-Fi hotspots at airports and popular tourist destinations such as Times Square in New York City. The news segment cited that 92 percent of free Wi-Fi users never read the disclaimer that sometimes clearly states the "network will access personal information."
With regard to EMV, Akahoshi agrees that the technology is a step in the right direction. "However, until we get to the stages where EMV readers and cards are more prevalent, consumers will face the same challenges," Akahoshi says.
It used to be easy. There were two and sometimes three major consoles, and every few years gamers would upgrade to the latest model of their platform of choice. It's a different world these days. Whether you're in the market to buy a new system for yourself or as a gift, let's go over three questions that every potential buyer needs to ask.
1. Will It Be Cheaper If I Wait?
Sony (SNE) will cut the price of its PS4 system in Japan come Oct. 1, and while there's no indication that it will also slash prices in the U.S. and Europe, it's hard to fathom Sony's console selling for roughly $292 in Japan and higher everywhere else.
The PS4 has now been on the market for nearly two years, making a price cut ahead of the holiday shopping season a possibility. If Sony moves, it follows that Microsoft (MSFT) and perhaps even Nintendo will follow suit. With the holiday shopping season set to heat up in a few weeks, it wouldn't be a surprise if a price war breaks out, rewarding those who wait to make a purchase.
2. Do You Really Need a Console?
Die-hard gamers will swear by their platforms, but mainstream audiences might see things differently. Some folks are spending more time on consoles streaming online video than playing games, making it possible that a set-top-box media player would be the better and significantly cheaper option.
You can't play "Call of Duty" through your Roku box or Chromecast stick, but it could be the more cost-effective investment if you find yourself spending more time playing apps on your smartphone or tablet than you do with your console controller.
3. Are There Other Ways to Get Your Game On?
It's probably not a coincidence that the next generation of Apple TV is emphasizing enhanced video game apps. Folks usually associate iOS and Android apps with casual games along the lines of "FarmVille" or "Clash of Clans," but Apple TV and a new gamer edition of Amazon's (AMZN) Fire TV are out to raise the bar.
Apple TV and Fire TV make the most of high-def TVs to go beyond what you can do with your smartphone. They work with third-party controllers. The new Apple TV with its Siri remote and compatible controller offers everything from "Guitar Hero" to "Rayman." You're not just crushing candy anymore.
We're also getting to the point where virtual reality systems will start to get cheaper. Whether it's niche leader Oculus Rift or an accessory along the lines of Samsung Gear VR for Galaxy Note owners, there's a whole new gaming experience on the horizon. In short, non-console options are starting to grow more viable, making a multiyear investment in a new PS4, Xbox One, or Wii U a cloudier decision.
Right now, nothing compares to an Xbox One or PS4 gaming experience. The same may not be true in just a couple of years.
Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns and recommends Amazon.com. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out our free report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.
By Kimberly Palmer
When it comes to saving money, the Web is your friend. Certain sites make it exceedingly simple to compare prices and find a great deal. All you need is your phone or computer and Internet access. The following 10 sites will help you save time and money:
Unsubscribe to ads. Unroll.Me might be one of the easiest ways to remove temptation from your email inbox. The tool collects all of those advertising emails sent to you from retailers -- and anyone else who uses a bulk emailing list - and puts them into a daily "rollup" email you can peruse whenever it's convenient. That way, you won't get spammed all day, and you can still catch emails that matter to you.
Getting the latest shopping tips. Run by Lisa Koivu, a former contributor to the U.S. News Frugal Shopper blog, ShopGirlDaily.com keeps you abreast of the latest trends in the retail world, including the best ways to score a deal or where to find the best price for fall boots. She also publishes gift guides and information on affordable subscription boxes.
Stop paying for shipping. Before you make any online purchase, a stop at RetailMeNot.com is in order. Not only does the site collect coupons, but it also tracks free shipping codes and other discount information that can ensure you get the best deals available at tens of thousands of stores.
Consider already-opened products. Just as a new car loses value as soon as it's driven off the lot, new products also lose value after a customer opens them and then returns them to the store. That's where Blinq.com comes in. The site partners with retailers to sell discounted items to customers who don't mind minor signs of use or the fact that the packaging has been opened.
Get cash back. A slew of new sites offering cash back have popped up to help you save at checkout. One popular option, Ebates.com, lets you opt for scheduling in-store pickups instead of delivery, if that's more convenient for you. The pickup option also guarantees you don't pay for shipping.
Layer gift cards. The gift card layering method is another frequently used tool by savvy shoppers. If you know you have to make a purchase from a certain retailer, such as Starbucks or Amazon, you can first purchase a gift card that comes with a discount. For example, at GiftCardGranny.com or Raise.com, you might be able to buy a $50 gift card for $40, which shaves an automatic $10 off your purchase.
Use more coupons. You might have already incorporated coupons into your shopping routine, but you can probably find even more if you visit coupons.com. The site lets you search for items by categories, such as apparel, food and personal care, so you can make sure you get the best deals for items on your shopping list.
Get Amazon deals. If you buy frequently from Amazon, then you'll want to visit camelcamelcamel.com to track specific items on your list. The site will let you know as soon as prices drop on Amazon so you can time your purchase to get the best deal.
Grab a group coupon. They're no longer the hot new thing in the coupon space, but LivingSocial and Groupon can still alert you to amazing deals. You often have to act quickly to get a voucher, and smaller, local restaurants can get crowded after a sale, but the sites let you try new things, from massages to smoothies, for cut-rate prices.
Don't forget to be social. With banks and retailers increasingly communicating their best deals over Twitter and Facebook, it can literally pay to follow or friend them. You can also use social media to request refunds or report problems, which can translate into savings. Just be sure to keep personal information like account numbers offline or in private messages.
Kimberly Palmer is a senior editor for U.S. News Money. She is the author of the new book, "The Economy of You." You can follow her on Twitter @alphaconsumer, circle her on Google Plus or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Hana Livingston
Homemade cleaning products have myriad advantages over store-bought counterparts, the two most important being their lower toxicity and cost, as many can be made for pennies on the dollar. Most of these recipes utilize common ingredients already lingering in cabinets, such as baking soda, lemon juice, salt, alcohol and olive oil. Essential oils aren't necessary, but a few drops of lavender or mint, say, can add a nice fragrance to the mix.
Fizzy toilet bowl cleaner. This homemade way to deep-clean a toilet is reminiscent of elementary school science class: Add one-half cup baking soda and 1 cup white vinegar into the bowl. For extra deodorizing power, add about 10 drops of an essential oil with a heavy-duty fragrance. Let it sit for a few minutes, fizzing away, before scrubbing with a toilet brush.
Carpet cleaning and freshening powder. Look no further than the kitchen pantry to freshen carpets with little effort. To make this carpet cleaning powder, courtesy of PopSugar, add the following into a blender: 2 cups baking soda, one-half cup cornstarch, one-half cup cornmeal, four bay leaves, 1 tablespoon whole cloves, and 1 tablespoon Borax (optional). Pulse until the mixture is an even consistency and transfer to a sprinkle-top container, easily found at a dollar store. Sprinkle the powder generously over carpet and let sit for at least two hours or overnight, then vacuum.
'Faux Breeze' freshening spray. Use this homemade freshener by natural living blog BrownThumbMama instead of Febreze. Thoroughly combine 1 tablespoon baking soda with two to three drops of an essential oil in a dish. Add to a spray bottle with 1 cup distilled water and shake vigorously until the baking soda dissolves. Spray in the air or on fabric surfaces that need freshening, such as linens, upholstery, shoes, and carpets.
Garbage disposal refresher. Unseen build-up in the garbage disposal doesn't just cause odors; it can also contribute to clogged pipes over time. The DIY website Hello Natural recommends adding citrus peels into an ice cube tray or mini-muffin tin. Top with distilled vinegar and freeze overnight. Pop the cubes out of the tray or tin, sealing in a plastic bag for later use. When in need, toss a cube down the garbage disposal while it's running. The ice and vinegar will clean the disposal's blades while the peels will give the kitchen a citrus aroma.
Citrus enzyme wonder cleaner. Enzyme cleaner is lauded for its ability to power-clean everything from floors to clothing to fresh produce. It's surprisingly easy -- and cheap -- to whip up enzyme cleaner with a recipe from the DIY website One Good Thing by Jillee. Add 2 cups chopped citrus peels into an empty 2-liter bottle with 7 tablespoons brown sugar and 1 liter water. Shake the bottle vigorously until the sugar dissolves. Write the date on the bottle and then let it ferment for two to three months, shaking every few days. When finished fermenting, dilute one-half cup enzyme concentrate with 1 liter of water. Can't wait for the mixture to ferment? Add 1 teaspoon yeast to the bottle when mixing together to speed up the process to two weeks, although some claim the cleaner isn't as effective with this method.
Reusable dryer sheets. Homemade dryer sheets are just as effective as store-bought, plus they're cheaper and more eco-friendly because they can be used again and again. Start by cutting square sections from cotton fabric, such as old linens, T-shirts, or dishrags. Place these cloths in an airtight container. Using a PopSugar recipe, mix one-half cup white vinegar with five to 10 drops tea tree oil, lavender oil, or another pleasant-smelling essential oil. Pour the fluid into the container to dampen the cloths. To use, squeeze out any excess liquid -- aim for a damp cloth -- and toss into the dryer with wet clothes just like a store-bought dryer sheet. When the dryer sheet has done its job, return it to the container for another use.
No-scrub microwave cleaner. Over time the microwave becomes stained with old food splatters but is often forgotten during cleaning binges. To clean without too much elbow grease, halve a lemon and squeeze the juice into one-half cup of water in a heat-safe measuring cup. The Kitchn says to heat this in the microwave for three minutes and then let sit for five minutes. Voila -- now use a sponge to easily wipe down the microwave.
Homemade Goo Gone. Get rid of sticky residue from price tags and labels as well as any mystery gunk on kitchen cabinets, refrigerator handles, and such. A paste of equal parts coconut oil and baking soda, the invention of lifestyle blog Rosy Blu, is a DIY gunk remover. Apply the paste to stickiness and let sit for a few minutes. Then rub gently until the gunk is gone, using a scouring pad to help out if needed.
Lemon dusting spray. Dusting spray from One Good Thing by Jillee eliminates dust while olive oil polishes wood surfaces. To make, add 1 cup water, one-quarter cup white vinegar, 2 teaspoons olive oil, and 10 to 15 drops lemon essential oil, or a citrus oil such as grapefruit, tangerine, or orange, to a spray bottle. Before each use, shake the bottle well to combine the oil and water. Spray directly on furniture and buff with a soft cloth. While this is intended for wood surfaces, it can also be used on other home surfaces that need dusting.
All-natural fabric softener. Making a DIY fabric softener isn't just cheaper; it also eliminates the residue that builds up on clothes from store-bought fabric softeners, according to the website DIY Natural. Just add one-third cup white vinegar to each laundry load, either through the fabric softener dispenser or a Downy ball. Miss that delightful smell that comes with fabric softener? Add a favorite essential oil, about 20 to 30 drops per gallon of vinegar. If using essential oils, shake the mixture well before each use.
Silver cleaner. The blog Mrs. Kendall provides these instructions to vanquish tarnish: Into a bowl, add a crumpled ball of foil, warm water, 1 tablespoon baking soda and 1 tablespoon salt. Immerse the silver in the bowl and watch tarnish disappear without any scrubbing. (The lifestyle and interior design website Apartment Therapy put this well-known old wives' tale to the test and declared that, indeed, it works.) Remove the silver from the water and rub gently with a towel to complete the tarnish removal.
Makeup brush spray and soak. Every health and beauty guru emphasizes the importance of clean makeup brushes for maintaining beautiful skin and reducing breakouts. To make your own brush cleaning solution, according to the natural living blog Live Simply, add the following to a bottle: 1 cup distilled water, one-half cup witch hazel, 2 teaspoons liquid Castile soap, and 1 teaspoon olive or coconut oil. Shake to combine. Use this to mist makeup brushes daily or, for heavy-duty cleaning, submerge brushes in the solution for 10 minutes.
All-purpose disinfectant. Real Simple recommends combining one-half cup white vinegar, one-half cup vodka, and 1-and-one-half cups water with 10 drops lemon essential oil and 10 drops lavender essential oil in a spray bottle for an all-purpose surface disinfectant. Shake well to combine. To use, spray surfaces and let sit for 10 minutes before wiping clean with a microfiber cloth.
Grout and tile power cleaner. Even a relatively clean bathroom looks dingy if the grout between the tiles is dirty. To clean it, the website Mrs. Clean endorses mixing three-fourths cup baking soda, one-fourth cup hydrogen peroxide and 1 teaspoon liquid dish soap into a squeeze-top container. Use a soft-bristled brush or old toothbrush to apply the paste to grout and leave for at least 15 minutes. Wipe away and rinse clean with warm water. To brighten tiles and tubs, squeeze the mixture onto a sponge, scrub, and rinse with water.
Granite countertop cleaner. While visually appealing, granite countertops can be tricky to clean and maintain. Instead of splurging on a specialty granite cleaner, make your own with a base of rubbing alcohol, which dissolves grease, disinfects, and leaves no streaks. One Good Thing by Jillee says to add the following in a 32-ounce spray bottle: one-quarter cup rubbing alcohol, three drops liquid dish soap and a few drops of essential oil to mask the alcohol smell. To finish, fill the bottle with distilled water and shake. To use, spray granite surfaces and wipe clean with a paper towel.
Drain unclogger. A clogged drain is no cause for panic with this trick from Real Simple. Pour one-half cup baking soda and one-half cup white vinegar down the drain. Cover with a wet cloth, wait five minutes, remove the cloth, and flush it all down with boiling water.
Streak-free glass cleaner. The necessary ingredients for shiny windows and mirrors are already in your cabinets. For an easy and cheap DIY glass cleaner, combine 2 cups water, one-half cup white vinegar, and one-quarter cup rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle. The vinegar dissolves dirt and grime while the alcohol prevents streaks. Spray onto the glass surfaces in your home and car with a microfiber cloth.
Powerful stain fighter. To combat stubborn stains, sometimes a little extra oomph is needed in the form of a pre-treating solution. An easy DIY stain treatment from One Good Thing by Jillee is up to the task. Mix two-thirds cup dish soap, two-thirds cup ammonia, and 6 tablespoons baking soda with 2 cups warm water in a spray bottle. Shake before each use (the baking soda tends to settle) and spray generously on stains before laundering. Due to the ammonia, don't use this on anything you plan to wash with chlorine bleach.
Bleach alternative. Harness all the cleaning and germ-killing powers of bleach with a DIY alternative. A recipe from the website Hippy Homemaker: Into an empty gallon jug, pour 1-and-one-half cups hydrogen peroxide (3 percent solution) and one-half cup lemon juice; top off with distilled water. An optional add-in is 1 tablespoon citric acid, which helps whiten fabrics and soften hard water (mix with the lemon juice to dissolve before the water is added). This bleach alternative can be used with laundry or anywhere around the home, just the same as bleach.
Multipurpose cleaner. Does the thought of all these various cleaners boggle your mind? Opt for one multipurpose product to clean glass, stainless steel, porcelain, wood and so on. To make, simply combine equal parts water and white vinegar in a spray bottle. Countless websites and magazines swear by this easy recipe, which is also ultra-cheap to concoct.
By FRANK JORDANS and PAN PYLAS
BERLIN -- Pressure piled on the head of Volkswagen (VLKAY) on Monday, in the wake of an emissions-testing scandal that saw more than 13 billion euros (around $15 billion) wiped off its market value in one trading session.
Following revelations that the German carmaker had rigged U.S. emissions tests for about 500,000 diesel cars, the company saw its share price in Frankfurt close down a stunning 17.1 percent at a near three-year low of 133.70 euros. Earlier in the session it had fared even worse, tumbling by more than 20 percent.
The scandal emerged Friday when the U.S.'s Environmental Protection Agency accused VW, the world's biggest carmaker by sales, of skirting the country's clean air rules. In response, VW has halted sales of some vehicles in the U.S. and pledged to cooperate with regulators in an investigation that could, in theory, see the company fined up to $18 billion.
At the moment, I'd be surprised if Winterkorn can ride this out, but in Germany there's often a slightly slower process in these matters.
Industry analysts said the VW CEO also faces difficult questions himself in the coming days, particularly at a scheduled board meeting Friday.
"At the moment, I'd be surprised if Winterkorn can ride this out, but in Germany there's often a slightly slower process in these matters," said Christian Stadler, professor of strategic management at Warwick Business School.
Stadler said that if VW were a U.S. company, then the CEO would have faced acute pressure to go more or less immediately.
The EPA said VW used a device programmed to detect when the cars are undergoing official emissions testing. The software device then turns off the emissions controls during normal driving situations, allowing the cars to emit more than the legal limit of pollutants.
Guido Reinking, a German auto expert, said that for a company to engage in such blatant trickery the company's top executives would have to be informed.
Winterkorn, an engineer by training, led research and development across the VW group from 2007. He became chairman of the management board the same year.
"It's almost impossible to imagine that he didn't know about this special way of programming the engine," Reinking told German television station n-tv.
Volkswagen marketed the diesel-powered cars, which account for about 25 percent of sales, as being better for the environment. The cars, which were built in the past seven years, include the Audi A3, VW Jetta, Beetle, Golf and Passat models.
The EPA has ordered VW to fix the cars at its own expense but said car owners don't need to take any immediate action. The EPA insisted that the violations don't pose any safety hazard and said the cars remain legal to drive and sell while Volkswagen comes up with a plan to recall and repair them. However, it said the cars pose a threat to public health.
The EPA also indicated the scale of the fines that could be imposed on VW. It said the carmaker could be hit with up to $37,500 a vehicle for the violations -- a total of more than $18 billion.
The California Air Resources Board is also investigating, while German authorities are looking into whether the company bent the rules there, too.
"The auto manufacturers have to work closely with U.S. authorities to comprehensively clarify the matter," Michael Schroeren, a spokesman for Germany's environment ministry told reporters in Berlin. "We expect reliable information from the car manufacturers so that [German authorities] can check whether comparable manipulation has happened in Germany or Europe."
Echoes of Toyota
VW's current plight has echoes with Toyota (TM), the company it overtook in the first half of the year to become the world's number one by sales.
The Japanese automaker recalled 9 million cars between 2009 and 2011 after some of its vehicles experienced unintended acceleration, way more than the half-million or so that VW is taking back. The cost to Toyota of that recall, including fines, was a little more than $5 billion, according to Warwick Business School's Stadler.
"The numbers are lower and there are no fatalities involved," Stadler said. "This suggests that in the 'heat of the moment' the long-term effect on Volkswagen may be overstated. Sure it will hurt, but maybe not quite as bad as we expect right now."
Still, if other regulatory authorities decide VW has a case to answer, then the carmaker faces the potential for even bigger fines.
"The news so far revolves around the U.S. impact, but if European investigators become interested the potential penalties could multiply very quickly," said Chris Beauchamp, senior market analyst at IG.
Volkswagen's woes in the markets were felt across the European car market Monday. France's Renault saw its share price drop 3.2 percent while BMW ended 1.5 percent lower. Daimler, which owns Mercedes-Benz, closed 1.4 percent lower.
-Pylas reported from London.
(This story has been corrected to show that Winterkorn became chairman of the board in 2007, not 2009.)
Let's go over some of last week's best and worst performers.
Intra-Cellular Therapies (ITCI) -- Up 117 percent last week
The market's biggest gainer last week was once again a biotech company. Intra-Cellular Therapies saw its stock more than double after positive test results in the late-stage clinical trials for a promising schizophrenia drug.
Intra-Cellular's treatment proved effective only with the highest dose, but that only means that it will make that much more money if the drug that tackles schizophrenia symptoms clears regulatory hurdles.
Fitbit (FIT) -- Up 26 percent last week
Shares of the maker of fitness trackers got an excellent workout after Target (TGT) announced that it would make Fitbit bracelets available to its employees for free. This is a pretty big deal and not just because there are roughly 335,000 employees on the cheap-chic discounter's rolls.
Corporate wellness is an important perk these days, and if Target's buying its employees Fitbit, it could behoove other retailers to follow suit. Fitbit offers a cost-effective way to measure movement, encouraging wearers to lead more active lifestyles.
Yandex (YNDX) -- Up 11 percent last week
Russia's leading search engine got a double dose of good news. The first boost came in the form of Google (GOOG, GOOGL) being found guilty in a Russian antitrust probe having to do with the way the dot-com darling bundles apps in Android mobile software.
The other boost came in the form of a Goldman Sachs (GS) upgrade. Yandex has been hit with weak ruble concerns and Russia's volatility, but Goldman Sachs feels that the stock is undervalued despite the challenges.
Raptor Pharmaceuticals (RPTP) -- Down 42 percent last week
There's no denying that upstart biotechnology companies make up the market's most volatile industry. We saw that this week as Intra-Cellular was the market's biggest winner, and we are seeing that again with Raptor Pharmaceuticals as its biggest loser. The stock took a big hit after coming up short in a mid-stage clinical trial for what once was a potentially promising treatment for pediatric fatty liver. It failed to meet its primary endpoint, which basically means that it's not an effective treatment.
La Quinta (LQ) -- Down 14 percent last week
Investors checked out of La Quinta after a couple of problematic developments. The hotel chain lowered its guidance, and that's never going to please Mr. Market. La Quinta also announced that its CEO would be resigning, rocking investors who prefer stability at the top. Its CFO will be taking the helm.
Wall Street didn't take kindly to the news. At least two major firms -- Citigroup (C) and JPMorgan (JPM) -- downgraded the stock on the double dose of unwelcome news.
Sonic (SONC) -- Down 11 percent last week
Finally, we have the leading chain of drive-in restaurants shifting in reverse after a poorly received sales update. The company behind the chain of more than 3,500 Sonic fast-food restaurants offered up a tantalizing headline in a press release last week, boasting about the 7.3 percent spike in comps it achieved during the fiscal year that ended in August. However, dig a few sentences into the release, and you will find that comparable-restaurant sales only grew at a 4.9 percent clip during the final quarter.
It gets worse. Sonic initiated guidance suggesting that comps will climb 2 to 4 percent in the new fiscal year that began this month. Yes, the restaurant-level sales are still positive, but we're looking at decelerating growth. The market was clearly holding out for something better.
Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns and recommends Google (A and C shares). The Motley Fool recommends Yandex. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out our free report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.
WASHINGTON -- U.S. home resales fell more than expected in August, a cautionary sign for the U.S. housing market which has recently looked on stronger footing.
The National Association of Realtors said Monday existing home sales dropped 4.8 percent to an annual rate of 5.31 million units.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a 5.51 million-unit pace of home sales last month. Sales were up 6.2 percent from a year ago.
The decline in August might be due to rising prices shutting out potential buyers, said Lawrence Yun, the NAR's chief economist. Home sales fell most in America's South and West, areas which had recently seen the fastest price gains, he said.
Nationwide, the median home price fell slightly in August to $228,700. That was still up 4.7 percent from a year earlier, but left the year-over-year rate at its lowest since August 2014. Prices in the West were up 7.1 percent from a year earlier.
July's sales pace was revised slightly lower to 5.58 million units.
A string of strong reports on the U.S. housing market have supported the view that the U.S. economy is building up steam and closing in on the point when the Federal Reserve will hike interest rates to keep it from overheating.
The housing market has been adding to quarterly economic growth although home sales and construction remain far below levels seen in the years before the 2007-09 recession.
Filed under: Life Stage LessonsBy JOYCE M. ROSENBERG
The growth in Hispanic-owned businesses in the U.S. is outstripping that of companies in general, according to a study released Monday.
Between 2012 and 2015, the number of Hispanic-owned businesses has grown at an annual rate of 7.5 percent, 15 times faster than the 0.5 percent growth rate for all companies, according to the study by the consulting firm Geoscape and the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
There are an estimated 4.07 million Hispanic-owned businesses in the country, up 57 percent since 2007, the study said.
Revenue at Hispanic-owned companies has also surged, rising 88 percent to a projected $661 billion this year from $351 billion in 2007.
Many choose to create their own businesses because they didn't see the opportunities in Corporate America.
One reason for the increase is the difficulty some Hispanics have found working and advancing in big U.S. companies.
"Many choose to create their own businesses because they didn't see the opportunities in Corporate America," Melgoza said.
Many Hispanic entrepreneurs have started service companies like restaurants, he said. That's in line with the continuing overall growth of the service sector of the economy, but some Hispanic owners who recently arrived in the U.S. tend to start companies in industries that they're familiar with, such as construction or landscaping, Melgoza said.
The fastest growth over the past three years has been in Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota, where the number of Hispanic-owned businesses grew by 30 percent. Geoscape attributed the increase to the migration of Hispanics into these states for jobs and their low cost of living relative to other regions. The slowest growth has been in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, with the number of businesses increasing 20 percent.
AAPL) has designated building an electric car as a "committed project" and has set a target shipping date for 2019, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
The project has been code-named Titan and its leaders have been given permission to triple the 600-person team, the Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter.
For Apple, a "ship date" doesn't necessarily mean the date that customers receive a new product; it can also mean the date that engineers sign off on the product's main features, the Journal said.
Apple spent more than a year investigating the feasibility of an Apple-branded car, including meeting with two groups of government officials in California, according to the Journal.
Sources told Reuters in August that Apple was developing a car and studying self-driving technology, but it was unclear if the iPhone-maker was designing a vehicle that could drive itself.
Apple wasn't immediately available for comment.
The Cupertino, California-based company doesn't currently plan to make its first electric vehicle fully autonomous, the Journal said.
Apple has been consistently hiring car experts as part of its effort to build a team in automated driving.
Apple has hired this year Megan McClain, a former Volkswagen engineer with expertise in automated driving, and Vinay Palakkode, a graduate researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, a hub of automated driving research.
Apple also hired a senior engineer from electric carmaker Tesla Motors (TSLA), according to a LinkedIn posting.
Apple's shares were up 1.3 percent at $114.98 on the Nasdaq.
NEW YORK -- Stocks rose broadly Monday, recouping some losses from a sell-off last week, as investors tried to look beyond uncertainty about the outlook for interest rates.
The major U.S. indexes fell into losses in the afternoon on sharp declines for drugmakers. The drop was sparked by a tweet from Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton about plans to unveil policy proposals that would stop "price gouging" in the industry. But rising technology and banking shares helped lift the market by the end of the day.
Investors who have been buying the dips in recent years have benefited, so perhaps they'll use that strategy until it doesn't work anymore.
"Investors who have been buying the dips in recent years have benefited," he said, "so perhaps they'll use that strategy until it doesn't work anymore."
The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) closed up 125.61 points, or 0.8 percent, to 16,510.19. The Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) rose 8.94 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,966.97. Nine of the 10 industry sectors in the index rose. The Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) gained 1.73 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 4,828.95.
Last week's broad slump last week was triggered by a decision from the Federal Reserve not to raise interest rates. Low borrowing rates have helped stocks triple in price since 2009, and a decision to keep them low normally would encourage investors to buy shares.
But the central bank cited concerns over a global economic slowdown for delaying a hike, and that spooked investors already on edge after weeks of seconding guessing growth in China and the impact of struggling emerging markets with plunging currencies.
Financial stocks rose Monday after comments from Federal Reserve officials over the weekend suggested some still foresee a rate increase as likely this year. Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Dennis Lockhart said Monday that he was "confident" of a rate rise this year.
Movers and Shakers
Citigroup (C) rose 42 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $50.71. Stocks of financial companies dropped sharply Friday over fears that lenders would have to hold off increasing borrowing rates on their customers since the Fed had decided to hold off on hiking rates itself.
Biogen (BIIB), a maker of specialty drugs, was among the big losers after Clinton's comments on drugmakers. The stock dropped $17.51, or 5.6 percent, to $297.16. Dow members Pfizer (PFE), Merck (MRK) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) also fell.
Atmel (ATML), a California-based semiconductor company, was one of the day's big winners. The stock surged after the company accepted an offer worth about $4.6 billion in cash and stock from Britain's Dialog Semiconductor. Atmel provides electronics products used in the industrial, automotive, consumer, communications, and computing markets. Its stock jumped 92 cents, or 13 percent, to $8.19.
In Europe, stocks stabilized from losses Friday. Britain's FTSE 100 index rose 0.1 percent while the CAC-40 in France climbed 1.1 percent. Germany's DAX rose 0.3 percent.
The price of oil rose on expectations that U.S. production would continue to slip, helping to eventually ease the supply glut. Investors are also betting that a higher price for wholesale gasoline could spur refiners to process more crude. U.S. crude rose $2 to close at $46.68 a barrel in New York. Brent Crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, rose $1.45 to close at $48.92 in London.
In metals trading, the price of gold fell $5 to $1,132 an ounce. Silver rose 5.8 cents to $15.22 an ounce and copper was little changed from Friday at $2.39 per pound.
In other futures trading on the NYMEX:
What to watch Tuesday:
These selected companies are scheduled to release quarterly financial results:
By Ellen Chang
NEW YORK -- High deductible health insurance plans are becoming commonplace as more employers are shifting health insurance costs to their workers.
Consumers are gravitating toward plans that have lower monthly deductibles in an effort to lower the costs of their monthly premiums. High deductible plans have many advantages, especially for millennials and Gen-Xers who rarely go to the doctor because they are healthy and don't rely on many prescription drugs. The catch is that the out-of-pocket costs might prove to be a surprise for consumers who don't budget for meeting the higher deductible.
"If they're young and healthy, a high deductible plan may be a good fit," said Nate Purpura, vice president of consumer affairs at eHealth.com, an online health insurance exchange based in Mountain View, California. "Shoppers who come to these plans in pursuit of lower premiums don't always understand what they're getting themselves into."
Benefits of Buying a High Deductible Plan
Saving money each month is critical for many consumers who are healthy and would rather allocate the extra money toward paying down their student or auto loans or stashing the money away for a rainy day if an emergency arises.
Shoppers who come to these plans in pursuit of lower premiums don't always understand what they're getting themselves into.
Consumers can buy their HSA though their employer, but also through the open marketplace. There are a myriad of HSAs out there, but look for the ones that charge no or minimal fees for monthly account maintenance and transactions. Some accounts are more basic and are more akin to a regular savings accounts, but other ones give you the option to choose from various stocks and mutual funds.
"You can choose anything that is on the market," she said. "They are totally portable, are owned by you and have no affiliation with your employer."
What's more, high deductible plans remain a favorite, because they give consumers more control over how much they are spending on healthcare, said Sally Pipes, CEO of the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco. Since there are now 14.5 million HSAs, research has found that consumers who have chosen high deductible plans and paired them with these accounts has resulted in reductions in health care spending of 15 percent each year, she said.
"If an emergency strikes, the high deductible policy can protect a patient from astronomical medical bills," Pipes said.
Millennials and Gen-Xers might be able to benefit the most from the combination of the plan with an HSA, especially if their account goes largely used, leaving them with a "sizeable nest egg in their HSA, which they can spend however they like on health care or anything else once they turn 65, she said.
Disadvantages of a High Deductible
Consumers who often have doctor's appointments or need treatment for a chronic medical condition and need to use prescription drugs on a regular basis should avoid these plans, said Purpura.
Determine if you can pay for the entire annual deductible from your savings in case of an unexpected hospitalization or illness occurs.
"People who are savvy about high-deductible health insurance plans and HSAs can amass thousands of dollars over just a couple years and use that money to cover co-payments or their deductible in the event of a serious medical issue," Purpura said. "They can use also it to pay for things like glasses or dental care and other things that many standard health insurance plans don't cover."
Some workers turned to high deductible plans to defray some of the costs with 46 percent of employees who selected a major health insurance plan with a high deductible of $1,000 or more last year, up from 34 percent who said the same in 2014, according to a recent Aflac survey.
A majority of employees have regretted this choice in hindsight with 52 percent who found the high deductible plans to be a poor choice while 59 percent said the plans were financially detrimental. Millennials expressed the greatest amount of regret with 65 percent who said they disliked the plan.
Individuals who choose plans with higher deductibles should also consider opening an HSA or buying additional voluntary insurance for critical illness, which can cover the cost of deductibles or lower the impact to their budget, said Matthew Owenby, chief human resources officer at Aflac.
In some cases, it is not that consumers prefer high deductible plans, but rather are forced to choose them, because companies are shifting the financial burden onto employees, said Dave Ratcliffe, principal of health and productivity practice at Buck Consultants at Xerox in New York. Now consumers also "have more skin in the game," he said.
One critical issue when employees select these plans is that they tend to put off doctor's appointments even though preventative care such as annual checkups are completely covered.
"Employees look at high deductible plans and think they will have high expenses," Ratcliffe said. "The challenge is to make sure the plan is set up so employees understand preventive care is covered and incentivize employees to seek preventive care."
Looking for Better Deals
Since 75 to 80 percent of Americans aren't meeting their deductibles, consumers are looking for better deals, said Vish Banthia, founder and chief medical officer of ZendyHealth, the Los Angeles health care cost comparison company. Some doctors will negotiate on procedures such as getting allergy testing or an MRI, so consumers can save 10 to 80 percent of the cost.
"Up until now, health care has been one of the only industries in which nobody knows the price tag for the medical procedures until you get a super high medical bill after the fact," he said. "Our website shows you the national average."
The HSAs can cover certain medical expenses and many common ones include prescription medications, doctor and dentist visits and eyeglasses. Contributions to an HSA aren't subject to federal income taxes and can be invested like an IRA. The advantage of HSAs is that any unused funds roll over each year and any remaining money can be used for retirement after the age of 65.
Consumers who opted to purchase coverage on the public health insurance exchanges are especially good candidates since most of the purchased plans, including silver and bronze plans under Obamacare are high deductible plans.
"You fund it ahead of time, which means you will get a discount for any medical procedures you need in the future, said Laura Adams, insuranceQuotes.com's senior analyst said. "It can add up to some substantial savings."
Sometime in the next few months, we're going to see the nation's central bank raise a key lending rate. When that happens, your credit card's APR will go up shortly thereafter. The first time it goes up, it won't move much -- you might not even notice it, honestly. However, it's likely the Fed won't stop with just one rate increase, choosing instead to boost rates slowly, steadily over the course of months and years.
While none of those individual increases will be huge, add them all up and they can have a significant impact on your credit card. The good news is that you have time to prepare your finances to handle these changes, and save yourself some money.
Before jumping into that, we'll explain why this mysterious group of folks in Washington has so much sway over your credit card:
It's only a matter of time before that changes. Here's what you should do to prepare:
1. Get those balances down. As if you need more incentive to pay off your debts quickly, now you can add in the potential for higher interest rates. Again, the rates won't skyrocket your balances immediately, but over time, the increase will impact your bottom line if you're carrying big debts.
2. Consider a balance transfer credit card. Zero percent balance transfer offers are everywhere these days. However, many people think these offers could become an endangered species once the Federal Reserve raises interest rates.
Here's why: Since the federal funds rate is at basically zero, that means banks essentially are borrowing money for free -- getting a zero percent loan. Because the banks are getting a free loan, it can make financial sense for them to offer the same deal to cardholders on a short-term basis. All that will come to an end when the Fed begins to raise its rates. If the banks aren't able to borrow for free anymore, they likely won't let you do it either.
Therefore, if you're thinking of getting a new balance transfer credit card, now is probably the time. These zero percent offers may become a thing of the past. Or if the banks don't eliminate the zero percent offers altogether, they might make you pay more to get them. For example, they could raise their balance transfer fees from an average of about 3 percent up to 4 or 5 percent, making that great balance transfer offer instantly less appealing.
3. Ask for a reduced interest rate. People don't realize how much power they have in their relationship with their credit card issuer. A July CreditCards.com survey of 1,497 adults showed that 65 percent of people who requested a lower interest rate from their issuer were successful. Unfortunately, only 23 percent of cardholders asked. That means a lot of people are paying a lot of extra interest unnecessarily.
Even a reduction of a few percentage points can save you hundreds of dollars in interest over the long term, so ask away. It'll probably help if you have good credit, but even if your credit isn't spotless, it's worth giving it a try. Just don't try too often: The creditor probably will be receptive the first time you ask, but less so if you're asking for the fourth time in six months.
4. Stay calm. The Federal Reserve's process of raising rates is going to be a marathon rather than a sprint. You should have plenty of time to prepare yourself for what's ahead before you start to feel any big impact. And that's important because people tend to make far better decisions when they can take their time rather than when they feel rushed and pressured.
Matt Schulz is the senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com, a site dedicated to helping people make smart decisions about obtaining and using credit. You can follow him on Twitter at @matthewschulz.
By Andrea Lynn
Not everyone was born a coupon clipper. But there are numerous ways to net supermarket savings without going the coupon route. With these 20 tips, shoppers can save on grocery staples, either by capitalizing on store pricing policies or by bypassing the supermarket altogether for certain items.
Shop the Dollar Store. Remember to put dollar stores into the rotation for pantry staples. A recent Cheapism.com investigation found a basket of items, including aluminum foil, cereal, dish soap, sugar and spices, priced lower at the dollar store than at Walmart. While the dollar store doesn't naturally come to mind for groceries, shoppers will find deals on packaged goods such as oatmeal and pancake mix.
Choose Budget-Priced Olive Oil. Taste-offs staged by food-centric media outlets as well as Cheapism.com have put supermarket olive oils to the test. Trader Joe's Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil ($5.99 for 33.8 ounces) emerged victorious in a couple of these competitions. Goya Extra Virgin Olive Oil ($3.99 for 250 milliliters) also earned its stripes as the best cheap olive oil in Cheapism's taste test and a top thrifty pick elsewhere.
Freeze Staples. The freezer can be a thrifty consumer's best friend. Keep an eye out for buy-one-get-one-free deals and other discounts and stock up at the supermarket bakery, in the dairy aisle, in the refrigerator case, and even in the produce department. Freeze the extra and thaw when needed. Bread and blueberries stay fresh in a deep-freeze state for up to one year, milk for three months, butter for six, and fresh orange juice for four.
Find Cheaper Baking Ingredients. Buying generic or store-brand flour, sugar and baking soda, as chefs often do, is a sure way to save money. Many supermarkets charge upward of $10 for vanilla extract but sell vanilla flavoring for a dollar or two, and experts at Cook's Illustrated detected no difference in taste in sampled baked goods.
Ditch Fresh Produce for Frozen. The Natural Resources Defense Council reports that the average American tosses out 20 pounds of food a month, including large amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables. Fresh produce is nutritionally satisfying and certainly looks good, and in season it can be a bargain. But opting for frozen fruits and vegetables saves consumers year-round. Frozen produce lasts far longer and often costs less up front (e.g., an ear of fresh corn costs at least 25 cents while a 10.8-ounce bag of frozen kernels costs $1 or so).
Buy Milk at Convenience Stores. Shop around for the best bargain when it comes to milk. Convenience stores and drugstores may charge 30 to 50 cents less than grocery stores for a gallon of milk, according to a tip from Reader's Digest. These stores lure shoppers with low prices on staples in hopes they'll stick around and buy more items with higher margins.
Catch Frozen Seafood. That same seafood labeled "previously frozen" at the seafood counter is often available for far less in the freezer aisle. Allowing a little extra time to thaw the fish at home before cooking could net big savings.
Purchase Cereal in Early Fall. AllYou magazine points out that cereal companies offer coupons and promotions in the fall (primarily September and October) to accompany the start of the school year. Take advantage of the offerings and buy multiple boxes. Check the expiration dates when purchasing, although unopened packages should stay fresh for many months.
Cut a Whole Bird. A whole chicken is a cheaper cut of meat than precut poultry portions. Net savings of about $1 a pound by doing the carving yourself. Rusty on butchering techniques? Grab a good knife and check YouTube for lessons.
Look Up. Expensive name-brand items are usually stocked at eye-level on grocery store shelves. Survey the whole scene, looking up and down for the less-obvious cheaper options.
Stockpile Meat and Seafood. Buying meat, seafood, and poultry during a sale and freezing it for later use could yield hundreds of dollars in savings over the course of a year. Another tip for saving on animal protein staples: Ask the store butcher when perishables nearing their expiration date are "reduced for quick sale."
Shop the Deli Counter. A study by ShopSmart magazine found that meat sliced straight from the deli counter was 31 percent cheaper than commercially packaged versions of the same product. This applies to cheese, as well; prepackaged Alpine Lace Swiss cheese cost $15.99 a pound compared with the same brand for $10.99 a pound at the deli counter.
Compare Unit Prices. Sometimes packaging makes it hard to spot a bargain. For many pantry staples, the best deal comes in larger sizes; a 15-ounce jar of Hellmann's Real Mayonnaise might cost $3 or so while the 30-ounce size might cost less than $1 more. That's not always the case, though. Be sure to check unit prices before deciding which size to buy.
Stock Up During Holiday Sales. Look for promotional prices on items associated with a particular holiday or season. Ground beef, hot dogs, chicken, soda, chips, beer and paper goods go on sale around Memorial Day, July Fourth and Labor Day. Thanksgiving brings discounts on stuffing, turkey, frozen pies and baking items. Steaks are discounted for Father's Day and Valentine's Day. Nonperishables, such as canned goods and oatmeal, are at their lowest prices during the winter.
Use a Cash-Back App. Apps such as Snap, Shrink and Shopmium award cash back for specific purchases. Some ask for scanned grocery receipts or a product's barcode -- both relatively quick and painless processes. Better yet, combine these incentives with in-store coupons for more savings.
Skip the Plastic-Wrapped Meat. Some grocery store butchers will trim and cut a large piece of meat at no charge. If this service is available, avoid the custom shrink-wrapped cuts. A chuck roast can be transformed into cubes for stew, for example, and a flank steak can become the star of a stir-fry.
Beware of Produce Aisle Pitfalls. Don't pay extra for the grocery store to perform simple food prep chores. Opt for vegetables in their natural state rather than washed and cut. A head of romaine lettuce, for example, might cost less than half the price per pound of separated leaves packaged in plastic. A single lemon or pepper might be cheaper than the unit cost of a multipack. Whip out a calculator to make sure buying in bulk is really a bargain when it comes to produce.
Ask About Incentives. Don't be shy about asking supermarket employees for free perks that might be available -- tenderizing meat at the butcher counter, for example, or adding extra greenery at no cost in the floral department.
Cut Your Own Filet Mignon. Every whole T-bone steak contains a small filet mignon on one side of the bone and a New York strip on the opposite side. Grab a T-bone at the grocery store and butcher it at home. This little trick can yield savings of $3 to $5 a pound for filet mignon.
Prepare Food at Home. Oftentimes it's more cost effective to stick with homemade, especially for products such as salad dressing, cold-brewed coffee, hummus, salsa and granola. For example, a 15.5-ounce can of chickpeas -- the primary ingredient in hummus -- costs about 72 cents. Add a small amount of lemon juice, garlic and olive oil, and compare the total outlay against a 17-ounce container of hummus that sells for about $4.
Filed under: Life Stage LessonsBy Jennifer Liu
So you consider yourself a planner, do you? You may have your annual checkups booked through December, funds set aside for that European trip next summer, and a family calendar color-coded to the T.
But getting your estate plans settled? Not so much.
Tasks like creating a will or naming guardians have a tendency to fall off the to-do list for many of us -- even the most organized. New survey results from Everplans confirm it: while 69 percent say they've seriously considered drafting a will, just 34 percent have actually done so.
More than 1 in 4 people who say they're in charge of handling estate plans admit they're not doing a good job of preparing for the unexpected. And among those not in charge, half feel it'd be a struggle to get all the necessary documents together.
Even fewer people are broaching the topic of eldercare arrangements; only one in four have a solid plan in place.
Despite this reluctance to take action, 87 percent of parents say it's important to discuss estate matters with their children.
So what's holding them back?
Turns out, it's not necessarily because discussing end-of-life plans is a taboo topic -- only 18 percent avoid the discussion because it's too depressing.
Instead, a lack of financial know-how seems to be the main culprit. A whopping 95 percent agree that services and access to information about creating estate plans would help them take action.
Looking for some such guidance? Before a heart-to-heart with your parents, read up on how best to approach five eldercare questions everyone should ask.
By Damian Davila
When it rains, it pours.
Not only is Whole Foods losing ground to other major grocery chains with cheaper organic and socially conscious offerings, but Whole Foods has also been slammed twice (first by California authorities and then by New York authorities) for overcharging its customers.
The CEOs of Whole Foods Market (WFM) have admitted that some of their stores overcharged their customers in New York City and California for certain items. So to help you avoid spending your "Whole Paycheck," here are seven of the most outrageously expensive Whole Foods products to be wary of next time you're strolling their aisles.
1. Chicken Tenders. You may be thinking, "Come on, good ol' chicken tenders are neither exotic nor fancy. How can they be that expensive at Whole Foods?" And at $9.99 a pound of chicken tenders, this Whole Food product may seem harmless.
However, an investigation of the Department of Consumer Affairs in New York City found that customers were overcharged by $4.13, on average. From its sample, one package of chicken tenders was overpriced by $4.85. Now that's some expensive "air!"
2. Air Plants. Air can be very expensive indeed at Whole Foods. Take for example, these air plants that cost $69.99 each at their store in Atlanta, Georgia. The main selling point of these southeast succulents is that they are grown locally. However, you could find similar local plants at a nearby Pike Nursery for just a few dollars.
3. Morel Mushrooms. Let's talk about the Cadillac of mushrooms. Morel mushrooms command a premium because they are hard to cultivate (only grow on decaying organic material, mostly in forests after a fire), to pick (some states require a permit to pick morel mushrooms in national forests), and to distribute (very perishable).
There are premiums and there is the Whole Foods premium. Depending on type of morel mushroom, availability, location, and quality, you could expect to pay between $249.99 a pound and $421.99 a pound of morel mushrooms at Whole Foods. For example, this cook found morel mushrooms at $320 a pound at Whole Foods Del Mar in San Diego.
4. Emu Eggs. If you think that the most expensive type of egg that you can you find at Whole Foods is the one laid by a free-range chicken that has access to a pasture environment, eats organic feed, receives a diet supplement with omega-3 essential fatty acids, and is raised with roosters ... then you haven't heard of emu eggs.
Local emu eggs to be more exact. Shoppers have spotted these green, prehistoric-looking eggs at Whole Foods starting at $29.99 a unit and reaching $34.99 a unit.
5. Saffron. At $65 for the highest quality crop, saffron can demand a higher price than that for gold. Some Iranian saffron producers report prices of $2,000 a kilo (roughly 2.2 pounds).
At some Whole Foods stores, you can find this expensive spice at $3,196 a pound. This means that $7.99 would get you only 0.0025 pounds of saffron.
6. Anything With Kale. People often taunt Whole Foods about its ridiculous products. The most cited example is anything that is born out of the kale craze. While fresh kale has an average retail price of $2.81 a pound, anything kale-ified at Whole Foods gets a hefty premium.
Here are some examples of Kale-steins that are 100 percent real:
People on social media were quick to call out Whole Foods about this outrageous idea, and a spokesperson explained that the product was made incorrectly and has since been pulled from shelves.
Now to be fair: certain foods are actually cheaper at Whole Foods. Just make sure you're not washing them down with asparagus water.
What outrageously priced products from Whole Foods have you spotted?
BERLIN -- Volkswagen (VLKAY) said a scandal over falsified U.S. vehicle emission tests could affect 11 million of its cars worldwide as investigations of its diesel models multiplied, heaping fresh pressure on CEO Martin Winterkorn.
Volkswagen has brought forward a meeting of senior supervisory board members to Tuesday evening from Wednesday, with Winterkorn's future on the line, a German newspaper reported, citing board sources.
The report, in the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung followed an earlier story in the Tagesspiegel newspaper saying the board would replace 68-year-old Winterkorn with Matthias Mueller, the head of the automaker's Porsche sports car business.
A Volkswagen spokesman denied the Tagesspiegel report. Winterkorn didn't mention his future in a video message posted on the company's website in which he repeated his apology for the scandal.
But a key Winterkorn ally withheld public support for the chief executive.
"I don't want to preempt the upcoming intense deliberations and will not comment on details or any consequences," Stephan Weil, head of the German state of Lower Saxony, told reporters in Hanover when asked about Winterkorn's future.
Weil, a supervisory board member representing Volkswagen's second-largest shareholder, earlier this year helped Winterkorn fend off a challenge to his leadership by long-time chairman Ferdinand Piech and earlier this month backed the CEO's contract extension.
Shares in the world's biggest carmaker by sales plunged almost 20 percent Monday after it admitted using software that deceived U.S. regulators measuring toxic emissions in some of its diesel cars.
The stock tumbled another 20 percent to a four-year low Tuesday after some countries in Europe and Asia said they would launch investigations themselves. Preference shares were down 19.7 percent at 106.1 euros at 1500 GMT.
At the lowest point, the declines in the preference and ordinary shares wiped more than $30 billion off the company's market value.
Volkswagen said it would set aside 6.5 billion euros ($7.3 billion) in its third-quarter accounts to help cover the costs of the biggest scandal in its 78-year-history, blowing a hole in analysts' profit forecasts.
It also warned that amount could rise, saying diesel cars with so-called Type EA 189 engines built into about 11 million Volkswagen models worldwide had shown a "noticeable deviation" in emission levels between testing and road use.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Friday that Volkswagen could face penalties of up to $18 billion for cheating emissions tests. The carmaker also faces lawsuits and damage to its reputation that could hit sales, and media reports have said the U.S. Department of Justice has opened a criminal inquiry into the matter.
In addition, New York and other state attorneys general are forming a group to probe the scandal, a spokesman for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.
The probe would focus on potential violations of environmental and consumer fraud laws, the spokesman said.
The crisis has also sent shockwaves through Germany, with Chancellor Angela Merkel calling for "complete transparency" from a company long seen as a symbol of the country's engineering excellence.
Winterkorn was due to have his contract extended at a supervisory board meeting Friday but is now facing questions over how the scandal came about.
Volkswagen, which for several years has been airing U.S. TV commercials lauding its "clean diesel" cars, was challenged by authorities as far back as 2014 over tests showing emissions exceeded California state and U.S. federal limits.
The company attributed the excess emissions to "various technical issues" and "unexpected" real-world conditions. It wasn't until the EPA and the California Air Resources Board threatened to withhold certification for its 2016 diesel models that Volkswagen in early September admitted its wrongdoing.
"Winterkorn either knew of proceedings in the U.S. or it was not reported to him," Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst said. "In the first instance, he must step down immediately. In the second, one needs to ask why such a far-reaching violation was not reported to the top and then things will get tough too."
Porsche's Mueller was promoted to Volkswagen's executive board on March 1 and was previously its head product strategist. As a management board member of family-owned Porsche SE , he is also close to the Porsche-Piech clan that has a controlling stake in Volkswagen.
'Totally Screwed Up'
Winterkorn has built Volkswagen into one of the world's top-selling brands since he took the helm in 2007, with brands ranging from budget Seats and Skodas to premium Audis and top-end Lamborghinis.
But he has also faced criticism for a centralized management style which some analysts say has hampered the company's efforts to address long-standing underperformance in North America.
Workers in Wolfsburg, where Volkswagen employs over 50,000 people, were dismayed by the damage to the company's image. "If Winterkorn knew of the manipulation, then he must go," said one staffer who works in human resources at the plant.
Late Monday, Volkswagen's U.S. chief Michael Horn said the company had "totally screwed up" and promised to make amends.
There have been no suggestions so far that other carmakers have engaged in the same practices as Volkswagen. Germany's BMW and Daimler have said the accusations against Volkswagen did not apply to them.
But shares in those companies as well as rivals including Peugeot, Renault and Fiat Chrysler fell Tuesday amid signs regulators across the world will step up scrutiny of vehicle tests, which environmentalists have long criticized for exaggerating fuel-saving and emissions results.
The EPA said Monday it would widen its investigation to other automakers, and French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said Tuesday an EU-wide inquiry was needed too.
Germany's Transport Ministry said it would send an investigative commission to study whether cars built at Volkswagen's headquarters complied with German and European emissions guidelines. Italy asked VW to prove the cars sold in that country do not contain the "defeat devices" at the center of the scandal, while Switzerland also said it would investigate Volkswagen's diesel vehicle emissions tests.
The European Commission said it was in contact with Volkswagen and U.S. authorities, and it was premature to say whether specific checks on the carmaker's vehicles were needed.
In Asia, South Korea's environment ministry said it would investigate 4,000 to 5,000 of Volkswagen's Jetta, Golf and Audi A3 vehicles produced in 2014 and 2015, and it could expand its probe to all German diesel cars if it found problems.
You see, class action litigation "settlement administration" firm Kurtzman Carson Consultants has recently begun alerting consumers of StarKist tuna to the settlement of a lawsuit against StarKist. It seems that from Feb.19, 2009 through Oct. 31, 2014, at least, the Korean-owned company that describes itself as the marketer of "America's favorite tuna" may have sold Americans a bit less tuna than was supposed to be contained in their 5-ounce cans.
According to a lawsuit filed in California back in February 2013, and since updated, StarKist "under-filled certain 5-ounce canned tuna products in violation of state and federal law." StarKist denies it did anything of the sort. But to make the lawsuit go away, StarKist has agreed to settle the plaintiffs' claims with the following proposition:
StarKist will contribute $8 million in cash and $4 million in vouchers "redeemable for StarKist tuna products" into a settlement fund. Anyone who is willing to swear that they bought at least one can of StarKist tuna at any time between Feb. 19, 2009 through Oct. 31, 2014, can join the "class" of plaintiffs participating in this lawsuit-cum-settlement. As a member of that class, they will be entitled to claim from StarKist either:
Catch of the Day
So what's the catch, you ask? Well, there are a few, but they're pretty small fry. First of all, to fish in this particular class action lawsuit, you must fill out a claim form detailing why you qualify to join the class and claiming your part of the settlement.
Second, you should hope that not too many of your friends and relations do the same thing. Because StarKist is only putting $12 million in this kitty. If more than 240,000 people try to sign up, then there's a chance the settlement will have to be divvied up "pro rata." (Essentially, this means that the more people sign up, the less compensation each individual plaintiff will receive.)
Also, if you're really ticked off about the too-little-tuna issue, to the extent that $50 worth of free fish won't assuage your hurt, you need to specifically ask to be excluded from the class of plaintiffs. Because once StarKist has paid out its $12 million -- that's it. Anyone who hasn't notified the court that they intend to sue StarKist separately will be legally forbidden from suing.
Oh, and the final catch? The real "catch of the day"? If $25 or $50 seems like a lot of compensation for getting a few ounces less tuna than you had bargained for, sit yourself down and prepare to hear how much the lawyers are asking to be paid on this lawsuit: As much as $4 million in legal fees.
That's the real whopper.
Motley Fool contributor Rich Smith loves tuna and if given his druthers will opt for the $50-worth-of-free-tuna settlement. He has no (other) financial interest in any company named above. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out our free report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.